« ForrigeFortsett »
freld equipage in readiness, the Quarter Master Gerrerad is but now applying to the several states to provide these things for their troops respectively. Instead of having a regular system of transportation established upon credit, or funds in the Quarter Master's hands to defray the comin. gent expenses thereof, we have neither the one nor the other; and all that business, or a great part of its being done by impressment, we are daily and hourly oppressing the people, souring their tenipers, and alienating their affections. Instead of having the regiments completed agreeable to the requisitions of Congress, scarce any state in the union has at this hour one eighth part of its quota in the field, and there is little prospect of ever getting more than half. In a word, instead of having any thing in readiness to take the field, we have nothing; and instead of har. ing the prospect of a glorious offensive campaign before us, we have a bewildered and gloomy prospect of a defensive one ; unless we should receive a powerful aid of ships, troops, and money, from our generous allies, and these al present are too contingent to build upon.”
While the Americans were suffering the complicated calamities which introduced the year 1781, their adversa. ries were carrying on the most extensive plan of operations against them which had ever been attempted. It had often been objected to the British commanders, that they had not conducted the war in the manner most likely to effect the subjugation of the revolted provinces. Military critics found fault with them for keeping a large army idle at New York, which they said, if properly applied, would have been sufficient to make successful impressions at one and the same time on several of the states. The British seem to have calculated the campaign of 1781, with a view to, make an experiment of the comparative merit of this mode of conducting military operations. The war raged in that year not only in the vicinity of the British head quarters at New York, but in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and in Virginia.
In this extensive warfare, Washington could have no immediate agency in the southern deparanent. His ad. rice in corresponding with the officers commanding in Vir. ginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, was freely and beneficially given; and as large detachments sent to their aid as
could be spared consistently with the security of West Point. In conducting the war, his invariable niaxim was, to suffer the devastation of property, rather than hazard great and essential objects for its preservation. While the war raged in Virginia, the Governor thereof, its represen. tatives in Congress, and other influential citizens, urged his return to the defence of his native state. But considering America as his country, and the general safety as his object, he deemed it of more importance to remain on the Hudson : there he was not only securing the most important post in the United States, but concerting a grand plan of combined operations, which, as shall soon be related, not only delivered Virginia, but all the states from the calamities of the war.
In Washington's disregard of property when in competition with national objects, he was in no respect partial to his own. While the British were in the Potowmac, they sent a flag on shore to Mount Vernon, his private estate; requiring a' supply of fresh provisions. Refusals of such demands were often followed by burning the houses and other property near the river. To prevent this catastrophe, the person entrusted with the management of the estate, went on board with the flag, and carrying a supply of provisions, requested that the buildings and improvements might be spared. For this he received a severe reprimand in a letter to him, in which the General observed ; " That it would have been a less painful circumstance to me to have heard, that, in consequence of your non-compliance with the request of the British, they had burnt my house, and laid my plantation in ruins. You ought to have consi. dered yourself as my representative, and should have reflected on the bad example of communicating with the enemy, and making a voluntary offer of refreshment to them, with a view to prevent a conflagration.".
To the other difficulties with which Washington had to contend in the preceding years of the war, a new one was about this time added. While the whole force at his disposal was unequal to the defence of the country against the common enemy, a civil war was on he point of breaking out among his fellow cilizens. The claims of the inhabitants of Vermont to be a separate independent state, and of the state of New York, to their country, as within its
chartered limits, together with open offers from the Royal Commanders to establish and defend then as a British pro„vince, produced a serious crisis, which called for the interference of the American chief. This was the more necessary, as the governments of New York and of Vermont were both resolved on exercising a jurisdiction over the same people and the same territory: Congress, wishing to comproinise the controversy on middle ground, resolved, in August, 1781, to acccde to the independence of Vermont, on certain conditions, and within certain specified limits, which they supposed would satisfy both parties. Contrary to their expectations, this mcdiatorial act of the national legislature was rejected by Vermont, and yet was so disagreeable to the legislature of New York as to draw from them a spirited protest against it. Vermont complained that Congress interfered in their internal police ; New York viewed the resolve as a virtual dismemberment of their state, which was a constituent part of the confederacy. Wash. ington, anxious for the peace of the union, sent a message 10 Chittenden, Governor of Vermont, desiring to know " what were the real designs, views, and intentions, of the people of Vermont; whether they would be satisfied with the independence proposed by Congress, or had it seriously in contemplation to join with the enemy, and become a British province.” The Governor returned an unequivocal answer ; " that there were no people on the continent more attached to the cause of America than the people of Vere inont; but they were fully determined not to be put under the government of New York; that they would oppose this by force of arms, and would join with the British in Canada rather than to submit to that government." While both states were dissatisfied with Congress, and their animositics, from increasing violence and irritation, became daily more alarming, Washington, aware of the extremes to which all parties were tending, returned an answer to Gov. Chiltenden, in which were these expressions. " It is not my business, neither do I think it necessary now to discuss the origin of the right of a number of in habitants, to that tract of country formerly distinguished by the name of the New Hampshire grants, and now known by that of Ver
I will take it for granted that their right was good, because Congress by their resolve of the 7th August, im. ply it, and by that of the 21st are willing fully to confirm it, provided the new state is confined to certain described bounds. It appears therefore to me, that the dispute of boundary is the only one that exists : and that being removed, all other difficulties would be removed also, and the matter terminated to the satisfaction of all parties.You have nothing to do but withdraw your jurisdiction to the confines of your old limits, and obiain an acknowledg. ment of independence and sovereignty, under the resolve of the 21st of August, for so much territory as does not interfere with the ancient established bounds of New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. In my private opinion, while it behooves the delegates to do ample. justice to a body of people sufficiently respectable by their numbers, and entitled by other claims to be admitted into that confederation, it becomes them also to attend to the interests of their constituents, and see that under the appearance of justice to one, they do not materially injure the rights of others. I am apt to think this is the prevailing opinion of Congress.'
The impartiality, moderation and good sense, of this letter, together with a full conviction of the disinterester patriotism of the writer, brought round a revolution in the minds of the legislature of Vermont ; and they accepted the propositions of Congress, though they had rejected them four months before. A truce among the contending parties followed, and the storm blew over.
Thus the personal infuence of one man, derived from his pre-eminent virtues and meritorious services, extinguished the sparks of civil discord at the time they were kindling into flame.*
Though in conducting the American war, Gen. Washing often acted on the Fabian system, by evacuating, retreating, and avoiding decisive engagements ; yet this was much inore the result of necessity than of choice. His uniform opinion was in favor of energetic offensive operations, as the most effectual means of bringing the war to a termi.
* For more particulars, see Williams's History of Vermont; a work which, for its superior merit, deserves a place in every Library. If the Author had been an European, this would probably have been the case soon after his enlightened philosophical History had crossed the Atlantic, and made its appeirance in the United States.
nation. On this principle he planned attacks in almost every year on some or other of the British armies or strong posts in the United States, He endeavored, from year 10 year, to stimulate the public mind to some great operation; but was never properly supported. In the years 1778, 1779, and 1780, the projected combined operations with the French, as has been related, entirely miscarried. The idea of ending the war by some decisive military exploit, continually occupied his active mind. To ensure success, a naval superiority on the coast, and a loan of money, were indispensably necessary. The last was particularly so in the year 1781; for the resources of the United States were then so reduced, as to be unequal to the support of iheir army, or even to the transportation of it to any distant scene of action. To obtain these necessary aids, it was determined to send an envoy extraordinary to the court of Versailes. Lieut. Col. John Laurens was selected for this purpose. He was in every respect qualified for the important mission. In addition to the most engaging personal address, his connection with the commander in chief, as one of his aids, gave him an opportunity of being intimately acquainted with the military capacities and weaknesses of his country. These were also particularly detailed in the form of a letter to him from Gen. Washington. This was written when the Pennsylvania line was in open resolt. Among other interesting matters it stated, “ That the efforts already made by the United States exceeded the natural ability of the country ; and that any revenue they were capable of making would leave a large surplus to be supplied by credit ; that experience had proved the impossibility of supporting a paper system without funds, and that domestic loans could not be effected, because there were few men of monied capital in the United States ; that from necessity recourse had been had to military, impressments for supporting the army, which, if continued longer, or urged farther, would probably disgust the people, and bring round a revolution of public sentiment.
" That the relief procured by these violent means was so inadequate, that the patience of the army was exhausted, and their discontents had broke out in serious and alarming mutinies; that the relief necessary was not within the power of the United States ; and that from a view of all circumstances, a loan of money was absolutely necessary